Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Radioactive Tuna Found in US Waters

Northern blue fin tuna. Photo via: TreeHugger.com

It's been more than a year since an earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered tsunamis and the nation was brought to the brink of nuclear disaster, but the environmental impact of those events has hardly subsided. According to scientists, scores of bluefin tuna have begun arriving to the west coast of the United States bearing qualities startlingly similar to Godzilla, another famed Japanese export -- namely, they're radioactive.

While the highly-charged migratory fish don't seem poised to trample any unsuspecting cities just yet, experts are still concerned to find the radiation leaked from Japan's nuclear power plant at Fukushima has found its way across the Pacific.

"We were frankly kind of startled," says Nicholas Fisher, a researcher studying the radioactive tuna's arrival to California.

In a study slated to appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists report that more than a dozen bluefin tuna fish caught off the coast of San Diego last year showed abnormally high levels of radioactive caesium, conclusively linked to the accidental discharges washed into the waters around Fukushima.

Researchers say that, although the level of radiation found in these samples is more than ten times what was found before the disaster, the radioactive tuna is still within the range considered safe for human consumption, reports the BBC.
However, the case does illustrate how migratory species can carry pollution over vast distances, they say.

"It's a lesson to us in how interconnected eco-regions can be, even when they may be separated by thousands of miles," Nicholas Fisher, a professor of marine sciences at Stony Brook University, New York, told BBC News.
The findings should serve as a humbling reminder about the broad-reaching impacts that nuclear disaster could have on the health of the world's species, ecosystems, and even ourselves, particularly considering how narrowly the worst-case-scenario at Japan's Fukushima plant was avoided.

Just to be safe, in light of these as yet innocuous radioactive tuna fish reaching the furthest corners of the Pacific, it might be best if we avoid calling them "chicken" -- of the sea, or otherwise.

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